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Boisi Center for Religion and American Public Life

The Rising Power of the American Dead


Further Reading

"Legal Power from Beyond the Grave" by Ray Madoff, published in the Boston College Chronicle on April 29th, 2010.

An article from the Boston College Chronicle on Madoff's new book, Immortality and the Law.  The article features a look at the book, as well as some interview questions with the author regarding how to law has fallen on the side of the dead.

"America Builds an Aristocracy."New York Times, July 12, 2010.

An op-ed addressing the undermining of the historical American preference for "meritocracy over aristocracy," brought about by the increasing use of perpetual "dynasty trusts" which have facilitated an American aristocracy that can retain its wealth forever.

"Protect the Farm, Tax the Manor." New York Times,  November 21 2009.

An op-ed looking at "sensible reform of the federal estate tax."  Based on the American principle that "hard work should be rewarded and power should not be conferred by birth," Madoff proposes a compromise that would allow family farmers and small businesses to bequeath their wealth, while imposing appropriate taxes on the wealthy heirs of America.

"Inherited Wealth Shouldn’t Get a Free Pass on Taxes." Los Angeles Times, July 16th 2010.

An op-ed on the estate tax, arguing that its repeal "imposes significant costs on the taxpaying public and promotes concentrations of wealth that harm our democracy." Without the estate tax, beneficiaries receive large sums, free from both estate and income tax.

Radio Interviews, Programs, and Podcasts

"Changes to U.S. Taxing After Death" An interview with Ray Madoff. (Marketplace)

An interview in which Madoff warns of the social costs of the Rising Power of the American Dead.  Our current approach to the rights of the dead, including "dynasty trusts," neglect our progeny and the future of our country. Because America has a relatively short history, we don't understand the effects of perpetual trusts. We have afforded such rights to the deceased that "if you have enough money, dead doesn't really mean dead anymore."

"The Rising Power of the American Dead" An interview with Ray Madoff. (AARP Radio: Prime Time Focus)

An interview in which Madoff points out that an American death is no death at all, because an estate can live forever.  In a distinctly American way, we have chosen to value property above all else. She explores how America is different than other countries in this way, and looks into American history at issues such as anatomical study in medical schools and the "grave robbing" industry it helped generate.

Ray Madoff recently appeared on KCRW radio discussing the new "super-rich" in America.

An interview with various commentators, featuring Madoff beginning at the 30:00 point. The whole program addresses issues related to her book, and Madoff comments on the "new gilded age" of the super rich alongside the other participants. She speaks on the "dreaded inheritance tax" and recent trends in the disparity of wealth in America.